Majority in England and Wales no longer identify as Christian, census says

By | November 29, 2022


LONDON – For the first time, less than half the population of England and Wales now consider themselves Christian, new government figures reveal, in a profound demographic shift that is producing a much more secular and diverse Britain.

The drop in the number of Christians follows a long downward trend across Europe, but the latest census in Britain shows the steepest drop yet, along with a parallel rise in the number of people telling census takers that they “don’t do you have a religion”.

The new portrayal of a much less Christian population could have profound consequences in Britain, as the Church of England is deeply tied to British traditions and government.

King Charles III May Bring New Approach to ‘Defender of the Faith’

The British monarch, now King Charles III, is the “Defender of the Faith” and “Supreme Governor of the Church of England”, and the church’s 26 bishops sit in Parliament’s House of Lords, where they pass laws.

Tens of thousands of Anglican churches still dot the landscape in Britain, where ‘pub and parish’ have traditionally been the heart of village life. But many of these churches are struggling.

The government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed on Tuesday that 46% of the population in England and Wales (27.5 million people) described themselves as “Christian” in 2021, down from 59% (33 .3 million people) in 2011.

“No religion” was the second most common answer, rising to 37 percent (22.2 million people) from 25 percent (14.1 million) in 2011. Figures for Scotland will come later.

“We have left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified themselves as Christians,” said the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, reacting to the census in a statement.

Cottrell saw the numbers not as a defeat but definitely as a challenge, adding that “other polls consistently show how the same people are still searching for spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values ​​to live by.”

He went on to say that “it is not a big surprise that the census shows fewer people in this country identifying as Christians than in the past, but it still challenges us not only to trust that God will build his kingdom on earth but also to do our part in making Christ known.”

In their census report, the ONS researchers wrote that many factors may be contributing to the change in Britain’s religious makeup, “such as different patterns of ageing, fertility, mortality and migration”.

The response to the census was voluntary and the question was also broad: “what is your religion?” Experts cautioned that many respondents may have religious views or spiritual beliefs not captured by the survey.

The census results, however, are visible to anyone who attends a Sunday service in England. The number of worshipers in many settings has decreased and the participants are older. And in big cities, many church buildings have been converted into community and arts centers, concert halls and even condominiums.

Analysis of Church of England data by the Telegraph newspaper found that 423 churches closed between 2010 and 2019.

The same data reveals that 940 churches closed between 1987 and 2019. The total number of churches that were left standing was around 15,500, the newspaper reported.

The census revealed more changes.

There were increases in the proportion of people describing themselves as Muslim (from 4.9% to 6.5%) and as Hindu (from 1.5% to 1.7%). Britain’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, is a Hindu. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is a Muslim.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK, said in a statement: “These results confirm that the biggest demographic change in England and Wales over the past ten years has been the dramatic growth of non-religious people. They mean that the UK is almost certainly one of the least religious countries on Earth.”

Copson’s group advocates the decoupling of religion in Britain, from the House of Lords to the classrooms, where a third of England’s public schools are Christian.

“No state in Europe is as religiously configured as we are in terms of law and public policy, while having such a non-religious population,” Copson said, adding that the numbers should be “a wake-up call”. call that leads to new reconsiderations of the role of religion in society”.

Why some of Europe’s least religious countries are shaped by politicians’ Christian faith

Reflecting these changes, upon his accession to the throne, Charles reaffirmed his role as supreme governor of the Church of England, but also said: “I consider myself bound to respect those who follow other spiritual paths, as well as those who seek to live their lives in accordance with with secular ideals.

The decline in the number of people in England and Wales who call themselves Christians follows extensive research into religious practice in Western Europe, where the Vatican in Rome served as the heart of the Catholic faith and Germany was the original source of Protestant Christianity. .

In a historical review, a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that while the vast majority of adults in Western Europe say they have been baptized, today 71% describe themselves as Christians and 22% attend services monthly.

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